Dallastown grad's alleged killer waives extradition
The man accused of killing a Dallastown Area High School graduate and standout field hockey player in her North Carolina apartment Saturday night isn't fighting his extradition from Nevada.
Mathew Thomas Benner, 28, appeared in court Tuesday morning in Nye County, Nevada, where he waived his right to fight extradition, according to the Nye County Sheriff's office.
Once returned to North Carolina, he will have his first court appearance charging him with murder and arson for allegedly killing Amanda Strous and torching her Charlotte-Mecklenburg apartment, officials said.
A Nevada judge gave North Carolina officials 20 days to retrieve Benner, according to the sheriff's office.
Benner was arrested about 4 a.m. Monday in Pahrump, Nevada, sleeping in his vehicle in the parking lot of a Best Western hotel, according to the sheriff's office.
Nye County deputies arrested him on an active murder warrant obtained by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, according to a news release from the sheriff's office.
The Nye County sheriff's sergeant who interviewed Benner said the man confessed to killing Strous. However, the deputy said he could not discuss the confession because police in North Carolina asked him not to release details of the case.
Tracked cellphone: Nye County deputies were able to find Benner because Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police were tracking him using his cellphone's GPS signal, according to a news release.
North Carolina detectives immediately flew to Nevada, according to the sheriff's office, and deputies will assist the visiting investigators in checking Benner's vehicle for evidence.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police have released information about the homicide but declined to answer specific questions about Strous' slaying. Benner's arrest warrant has not yet been made public.
Police declined to address reports from North Carolina media agencies that Benner previously lived near Strous and that he allegedly was seen near her apartment with bloody hands around the time of the fire.
An autopsy was performed on Strous' body, but the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office referred all questions to police, who said they don't release homicide victims' causes of death.
The Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office also declined comment; a spokeswoman there said state rules forbid prosecutors from discussing details of open criminal cases.
The background: Strous, 27, was pulled from her burning apartment in the 12000 block of Toscana Way in the Steele Creek area about 5:40 p.m. Saturday and rushed to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead, officials said.
Strous was the daughter of Eric and Crystal Strous of York Township, who held a candlelight vigil Monday night in her honor. Hundreds of people attended.
Eric Strous told The York Dispatch that his daughter was an active young woman with "a laundry list" of accomplishments in her short life.
"Amanda was a very special person," he said. "She was an incredible athlete, but she also was a great academic individual."
She worked as a counselor at Central Piedmont Community College's Harper campus for about six months, according to college spokeswoman Kathy Scott Rummage, helping students plan their academic paths and helping them succeed.
Shippensburg grad: Strous, 27, graduated from Dallastown Area High School in 2007.
She graduated from Shippensburg University in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in art, then graduated from the university in 2015 with a master's degree in mental-health counseling, according to a news release on the university's website.
She played field hockey at Shippensburg from 2007 to 2010. She was a forward who played in 79 games for the Raiders, scoring 24 goals and making 13 assists for 61 career points, the website states.
As a senior in 2010, a season in which Shippensburg competed in the NCAA Division II National Championship game, Strous served as a team captain and had a career year, totaling 11 goals and five assists, according to the website.
After spending her first year after graduation as an assistant coach at Hamilton College in New York, Strous returned to Shippensburg in the fall of 2012 to begin her three-year run as an assistant field hockey coach while studying for her master's degree. In 2013, she was the primary assistant on the Shippensburg squad that won its first-ever NCAA Division II National Championship, university officials said.
Strous and fiance Cory McCleaf were engaged and planned to marry July 30, according to her loved ones.
Loved life: Eric Strous provided The York Dispatch with an essay written by his daughter as a class assignment while she was studying for her master's degree.
"When I die I want to be remembered as a person who loved life to the fullest," she wrote, adding she hoped she would have brought "some sort of joy or meaningful fulfillment" to her family and friends.
"I have tried to live (a) life that is true to my morals, my values and myself," she wrote, adding that field hockey "shaped me into the person I wanted to be," changing her life on and off the field.
"I want to be remembered as influential and motivating," Strous wrote. "I also want to be remembered as being caring, accepting and open to anyone who needed me."
Her family noted that they believe she also will be remembered, in part, "for her smile, driven personality and contagious laughter."
One of her friends has started the Amanda Strous Memorial Fund on GoFundMe.com, and money raised will be used for funeral expenses, family counseling and other necessities, according to the page.
As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, the site had raised more than $26,000, donated by more than 450 people.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.